Blog Book Tour | “Love and Secrets at Cassfield Manor” by Sarah L. McConkie, a lovely new #Regency Rom of the lovely imprint #PureRomance (by Cedar Fort)

Posted Saturday, 22 September, 2018 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Acquired Book By: I have been hosting blog tours with Cedar Fort Publishing and Media for several years now, wherein their new blog tour publicist (Ms Sydney Anderson) also runs her own publicity touring company: Singing Librarian Book Tours (or SLB Tours for short!). I happily joined her team of book bloggers as a hostess in late Spring, 2018 wherein my first tours with her as a hostess began Summer, 2018. I appreciate reading INSPY literature and was happy to find these are most of the stories she is showcasing through SLB Tours! Most of her authors are published through Cedar Fort, though she does work with authors who are either Self-Published or Indie published through different publishers as well.

I received a complimentary copy of “Love and Secrets at Cassfield Manor” direct from the publisher Sweetwater Books (an imprint of Cedar Fort Publishing & Media) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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To find out why I love Sweet Romances and the #PureRomance imprint you might like to check out my previous postings for Cedar Fort blog tours, wherein I related my love of Historical & INSPY stories on a previous blog tour featuring To Suit a Suitor, however, I have happily been reading the offerings of this particular imprint for quite a long while now. The stories which still stand out are as follows: ‘Willow Springs’, ‘The Darkest Summer’, ‘Unexpected Love (anthology)’ and ‘The Second Season’.

To follow through my readings, be sure to scroll through this tag Pure Romance!

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A small insight into why I previously loved reading Julie Matern’s debut #Regency Rom earlier this year:

A strength of Ms Matern is allocating Regency realism to parlay into her #HistRom The Secret of Haversham House – whereby, you feel as if you can settle into her narrative rather easily without feeling as if something is misplaced or left out. She delights the reader who appreciates the Regency, as she has definitely spent time researching and reading the era to give us the visual clues we’re accustomed to finding whilst delighting our romantic side as well!

It is how she endears you to the journey back towards finding Francesca from the perspective of her grandfather which is what intrigues you the most! You get lost in his fervent attempts to uncover the lost information, the small bits of truth lingering in the minds of those still hanging onto life where their memories are nearly as lost as time itself. His hopefulness and his dedication to find Francesca are achingly real. You can feel his vexation with himself, for the errors of the past, the mistakes he hadn’t realised he had made and the anguish of grief which threatened to be his end.

Similarly, when Ms Matern turns the tables a bit on Francesca’s father (her adopted father: Mr Haverhsham) we view his life from his father’s point-of-view – seeing the lengths the upper class will go to ensure a winsome match for marriage, where even when a party is of independence thought and mind; there can be manipulations afoot. What struck me of interest in this segue, is how well in-tuned Matern is with the inner workings of the ton – how they justified their actions and how everything boiled down to status, wealth and stablity of one’s legacy.

I am definitely in favour of reading more of her Regency Romances and/or Historical Romances if she chooses to write outside the Regency era. She has an old world style and a foresight for how to tell a story which feels as if it were published in the 19th Century rather than the 21st! The only thing which threw me a bit were when she wrote ‘Mr.’ instead of ‘Mr’ and I had longed to see some of the words spelt in Old English vs Contemporary American as they would have befitted her vision for this novel even moreso than how it was initially told. However, despite those omissions what I loved the most is the credibility in telling an adoptive story and search for oneself at a time when entering adulthood lies on uncertain ground.

Matern was the last #PureRomance release I read, as this has become an imprint with the publisher I am keenly excited about seeing more stories published!

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Blog Book Tour | “Love and Secrets at Cassfield Manor” by Sarah L. McConkie, a lovely new #Regency Rom of the lovely imprint #PureRomance (by Cedar Fort)Love and Secrets at Cassfield Manor
by Sarah L. McConkie
Source: Direct from publisher via SLB Tours

Wealthy socialite Christine Harrison’s life seems perfect until the man she planned tomarry, Mr. Davenport, proposes to someone else. Heartbroken, Miss Harrison vowsnever to love again, and to distract herself, she sets out to rescue a fallen youngwoman. Little does she know that her journey will reveal more than she expected about her friends, her seemingly perfect life, and her own heart.

Genres: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Sweet Romance

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Find on Book Browse

ISBN: 9781462129188

Also by this author: Book Spotlight: The Promise of Miss Spencer

Also in this series: Willow Springs, Sophia, The Second Season, To Suit a Suitor, Mischief & Manors, Unexpected Love, Lies & Letters, The Darkest Summer, The Secret of Haversham House, Enduring Promises of the Heart, Book Spotlight: The Promise of Miss Spencer

Published by Sweetwater Books

on 14th August, 2018

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 272

Published By: Sweetwater Books (@SweetwaterBooks),
an imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc (@CedarFort)

Available Formats: Paperback, Ebook

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Converse via: #Regency or #RegencyRomance, #HistFic or #HistoricalRomance

#SweetRomance OR #HistRom

→ #LoveAndSecretsAtCassfieldManor OR #CassfieldManor

About Sarah L. McConkie

Sarah L. McConkie

From writing an award-wining tale of a dragon falling from the stars in the 3rd grade to regency romance written at thirty, Sarah McConkie has always had a passion for creating intriguing stories. After years of singledom looking for romance (and teaching Junior High Choir to fill up real life), Sarah began a Master’s degree in Literacy.

When love finally found her, she married and became a wife and eventually a mother. After tucking in her own little princess one January evening she determined to attempt her life-long dream to write and publish a novel.

Using her many years of experience in the single realm, a robust knowledge of regency classics, and a love of all things old fashioned and proper, Sarah wrote Love and Secrets at Cassfield Manor. She now lives with her own Mr. Right and her two daughters, and believes providing stimulating and moral stories promotes literacy in a world which needs more readers. This is her first novel.

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my review of love and secrets at cassfield manor:

I realise this opens after a long hibernative Winter where you itch to get out of doors, but even for those of us subjected to the Summery wrath of fiery temperatures, insane volcanic heat waves and a humidity which perversely attaches to the very air you breathe – I can attest, the setting of Cassfield Manor is one which is the epitome of pleasurable JOY irregardless if your exiting Winter or Summer, due to the immediate allure of softer winds, open ocean and the gentleness of the walking paths to renew your spirits! In essence, McConkie held my heart in the grasp of her opening paragraph and page, due to how welcoming she writ the setting!

The sisters are chattering about their prospects – one is slightly under the age of needing to worry about an immediate match (though only ‘just’) whilst Christine, being the elder of the two is immediately grateful she might have secured her match without too much arduous anxiety over whether or not she’d find a willing companion as a girl can just as easily ‘age out’ of contention. It is the way in the Regency, especially for girls’ of a particular station (ie. of the ton) but even those who are outside the throes of the upper classes soon find themselves in the cross-hairs of society starting to judge a girl by the prospect she fetches in matrimony.

Herein lies the foundation of where we begin our journey with these two sisters – as they’ve encouraged the attentions of a well-placed pair of cousins: Ivory and Meg, who could elevate their own status and attentions of the opposite sex if they so desired to be ‘nudged’ into the right kinds of circles. Such was the state of a young girls’ life once she reached the age of being courted and presented. I have no idea how the girls’ managed it – especially if their Mums were even half as bad as Mrs Bennett!! Oy.

The folly of a friend who interferes with your best intentions of having a perfected scheme of your own without their muddling the pot in which cannot be stirred too thin! Observing the rattlings of anxiety running through Christine’s heart as she listened to Ivory disclosing her impulsive choice to invite an unknown gent to the family’s estate at Cassfield, I reckon I would not soon recover from the delight this gave me as the best folly of all is when someone puts a wench into the conservative plans of a girl who has been purposely raised on the conventions of her society! I was not expecting such a clever twisting of the gentry to find a curious way of alighting a thread of uncertainty into a Regency plot!

I am unsure what was more fun to oversee, Christine fretting over how she would explain the sudden arrival of a beau of Ivory’s who has no reputation to vet or any understanding of his nature, prominence or assets to enquiry after; just the word of Ivory he is suitable and thereby, worthy of their time to entertain? Ooh, my! The joy it gave me seeing that *twist!* emerging out of a reunion of friends’ walking on a beach without a presumed care in the wind til now!

It begs to reason, Christine might find herself in a proper pickle of her own – or rather, what if Ivory had better favour with her match than Christine finds she has in hers? Wouldn’t that be equally as clever to find the girls’ at odds over whom they are smitten to love? In Christine’s case, the secrets surrounding her beau Mr Davenport are only just beginning – out of reach of her purview and ears, he is refusing to acknowledge a lettered announcement, whilst she is in full joy of the mirth of his arrival. Ivory on the other hand, appears nonplussed about inviting her Mr Robertson! A bloke whose both courteous and prompt!

Hmm, methinks the tides of opinion are changing inside Christine – at first, she was bested by Ivory to have a beau arrive before her own but now that he’s settled into Cassfield, it would appear she isn’t as vexed as she ought to be! If anything, you gathered Christine was more than a bit interested now in Mr Robertson; not just out of idle curiosity of a friend’s choice in selection but due to how curiously vague Mr Robertson is about disclosing his own affairs. He has the proper attitude in engaging each of the young girls’ in a round-table of conversation but when it came to the tact of addressing exactly where he falls in society and how well he’s managed his business affairs – wells, those are the issues of interest now perplexing Christine! Interestingly enough, they are not of much interest to Ivory, which made it seem a bit strange in one regard, as he was meant to be her chosen match?

You did see how discomforted Ivory became when she realised she was not Mr Robertson’s equal in regard to intellectual conversations – where he could carry a subject towards its natural depth, Ivory erred on superficial observations therein, leading to short discussions and a miss between the two which might hinder their relationship being developed. At least, it appeared this shall be the case – as it is hard to develop a connection if two people are not properly aligned.

There is a lot of movement in this novel – you have the foreground action where Lizzie, Christine, Meg and Ivory are trying their best to interpret what the gentleman are telling them vs how their actions equate their truer natures. They only have the knowledge as it arrives to them and the enquiries they can vouch for by others who know of the gents they wish to court or at least, hope to court as nothing is ever a certainty until it is properly accepted as such. Then, in the background of these goings on, McConkie has strengthened the plottings with a few key entrances of doubt – rounding out the gentleman with a few well placed intrigues which could either go towards an ending none of the girls’ would want to see for themselves in reality and/or some of it can be spared that difficult ending if only more of the (hidden) truth(s) could be brought forward.

What kept me grounded in the narrative though is the intricate natures of all the characters – their queues of moving in and out of the foreground, the flashbacks to yesterday where other truths are letting out their angst(s) of revelations and where, everyone is moving ‘towards’ each other and towards a larger moment of revelation. Each of them are acting on what they know or their instincts; some are making hard choices to thrive out of the necessity of choosing someone to walk through life together granting a better balance of equity and stability of accounting whilst your simply hoping those of whom have a harder road ahead of them have the courage to overcome the odds they never knew they had to face.

There were the usual hang-ups – the bloke who is a twin and whose business affairs on the surface look nefarious but what if the suppositions against him are the workings of a rumour mill? The girl who feels she has everything (Ivory) but longs to have the self-confidence to believe in herself? The quiet soul (Meg) who doesn’t seek for much and humbly accepts what comes her way. Whilst the bloke who has the most to gain, may or may not be the best of characters to trust? As you vacillate between which of the gentleman (Robertson or Davenport) are the better match for any girl who fetches after them with an open heart, you start to see the larger picture unfold through how McConkie draws you closer to where she wants you to walk past your assumptions and truly see her characters as the flawed individuals they always were but of whom could hold a few redemptive qualities within themselves.

One element of inclusion I was most happy of finding were the letters – you can say quite a lot in a small space of a missive but it is how letters were used in the story which provided a large portion of the joy to read it!! McConkie kept the tradition of how communication was thwarted a bit during the Regency due to how proper everything had to be carried out – how letters needed to be couriered or delivered, before anything could be decided. There was an art to starting a courtship as well, whilst gaining the rightful acceptance of a father’s permission to date his daughter was also commonplace.

McConkie did not overuse letters as a vehicle of forward motion but the ways in which they appear in context to the story, gave you the sense that each of the girls’ central to the plot were receiving missives which were allowing them to reconsider their options, weigh their best prospects and on the ledger of the men; sometimes a letter was not fair enough warning of worsening tides than a failed match with a girl of their choosing!

The only particularly peculiar part of the novel, (at least for me) is the crust of the story is not set at Cassfield Manor? We move throughout different locations as the story shifts forward – we also attend a variety of balls and go between country estates and into ‘town’ which of course, during this era meant ‘London’. I thought for sure a lot of the key disclosures might have occurred at the Manor itself but rather, it is where we began the tale but not where we spent the majority of our time. I know this house plays a key role in affection for the Harrison sisters (Christine & Lizzie) as it is their safe-hold of joy against the world. Where they can find peace and solidarity rather than further angst and anguish when life unravels a different way then they hoped.

There is an entire sub-plot involving smuggling and re-attribution of goods against the larger plot point of uncovering a secreted inheritance. What compels you into these threads is how McConkie took the roots of what endear us to Mr Darcy into the folds of her own character William Robertson with a bit of Rochester (ie. from Jane Eyre) as he is a bit more broodingly moody than Darcy; uniting a character of whom you are never quite sure if you distrust him, fear him, loathe him or if he’s the mere underdog to the whole story!!

Christine deepens her evolution into a young woman as the story moves through the central arc whilst her sister Lizzie finds equal growth in ascending into a growth of independence she did not have at the onset of their story unfolding. What is impressive is how their lives alter their course a bit away from what they first felt was their highest priority and start to live outside the pursuit of marriage, seeing the world for what it is and having a better understanding of the risks they never knew they could be victim of due to the fact their lives were slightly sheltered up until this point.

I never suspected the level of subterfuge involved!! In the ending chapters, readers who love Pride for the exchanges between Lizzie and Darcy will be smirking into their books as they read what McConkie has given us between her heroine and hero! You honestly aren’t even sure how any of this can unfold in such a way as to ensure an ending you can live with until those furtive ending chapters where you realise the truest strength of Ms McConkie’s writings lie in how she leaves her summation of the intricate facts and resolves to endear you to the route she took to redeem the characters who charmed their way into your heart!

A small fly in the ointment:

There were a few passages where I felt a proofreader or a betareader would have caught the issues at hand? There were a few in-line errors – such as setting up the reader to expect ‘something more’ to be said when in theory, the sentence merely ‘ends’ and a new thought emerges out of the next inked statement – but it left the question in your mind – an unresolved curiosity? Some of the structures within the context of the pacing and flow read a bit ‘off centre’ to me as well. Again, these are things an early reader (betas like myself) would have caught and happily highlighted to be righted. I felt bad Ms McConkie didn’t have one to tell her this ahead of publication.

I will admit, rather than find myself dearly distracted continuously, I re-approached this as if I were reading an ARC rather than a final copy. It made all the difference as I saw the heart of the story but it was a bit muddled in the delivery due to the forementioned final copy errors – again, I wished I could have helped on the beta side of the ledger.

on the Regency & historical styling of sarah L. mcConkie:

You can immediately recognise who influenced Ms McConkie to write her debut novel Love and Secrets at Cassfield Manor – as the sisters who open the story are reminiscent of two other sisters from my favourite novel of Austen (Pride and Prejudice). She has tucked us into her sisters’ relationship with an ease of entrance, similar to Austen whilst giving us the good measuring of how different they are by age, prospects for marriage and how they each perceive of themselves and their station.

Ms McConkie has writ an intricate drama – where the lives of four girls’ lingers in the balance against the men they choose to feel is their rightly match in life, love and a continuance of wealthy gains. Such was the hour of enlightenment in the Regency – girls’ were meant to marry well and secure their futures and the futures of their families. The men had a bit more flexibility but only justly so as everyone was under the same pressures and reputation had a lot of do with everything when it boiled down to marriage, matches and fortunes.

One of the pluses to reading this story is the ways in which the intrigue steps out of the shadows of a traditional scene of the Regency. Finding new entries into the romance and the courtship is a nice discovery to be made – for me, what I love most is how McConkie doesn’t let you rest on the laurels of what she discloses per each of her characters’. She wants you to think about everything that is happening in the story whilst countering that knowledge with the hopefulness she has etched into the path each of the girls’ are walking towards their own personal destiny. They each have different personalities with different goals – some are taking life as it comes, others are trying to curate the path they wish to walk and the others, wells, I think they are halfway between the duty and obligation of marriage and the carefree joy of youth.

A notation about writing the Regency:

I fear, I shall be forever in wont of writers who write historically specific narratives to switch-out the Americanisms for Briticisms but this is a particularly particular observation of a reader who is plumb spoilt on reading a heap of lovelies who hail from either the UK and/or countries whose preference of English is Britishly bent! I do feel a bit of a stepping out of setting and timescape whenever I notice a few inclining words, phrases and the (.) after designations of title (ie. Mr / Mrs / Ms) as I’ve come to realise those are ill-placed for the culture of style specific to these kinds of stories and timescapes.

I do recognise writers everywhere write in timescapes and periods outside their living histories, but sometimes, I feel we lose the aesthetic of a particular ‘style’ if we alter how the words are meant to remain inclusively unique unto their own. We look for other period details – from dress, mannerisms of class, aptitude of conversational exchanges, era specific phrases and other nuances which attune us to a particular place, setting and time – so I would imagine, the choices in how we approach how words are spelt should be equally important to maintain?

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary! Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who picked up the same story to read.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Saturday, 22 September, 2018 by jorielov in Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Coming-Of Age, Debut Author, Debut Novel, England, Fathers and Daughters, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Indie Author, Inheritance & Identity, Life Shift, Postal Mail | Letters & Correspondence, Romance Fiction, Singing Librarian Book Tours, Sisterhood friendships, Sweet Romance, The London Season, the Regency era, Women's Fiction

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